26 February 2010

Social Justice

'The poor have come to save us...'

In the Bible there are almost 2,000 verses related to poverty, social justice and personal responsibility to act on them. God has a special interest in the welfare of those at the lowest end of the social ladder: the poor, widows, orphans, foreigners and the fatherless (Jeremiah 7:5-7). Could God be telling is something?

Proverbs 31:8-9
Open your mouth, judge righteously, and defend the rights of the afflicted and needy
Generally, social justice has two key components:
Social – living together in communities or organised groups, and
Justice – the upholding of what is just, especially fair treatment and due reward in accordance with honor, standards, or law

On Judgement Day, Jesus even mentions six everyday unexciting works either performed or neglected as the final prerequisite to enter Heaven. They were all remembered by Christ and had been treasured, worthy of mention on the final day where all accounts are settled. Both the righteous and unrighteous were amazed at how their everyday conduct meant so much that they had forgotten them entirely. It was these little tasks of day to day living Jesus says proved His true disciples.

Matthew 25:31-40
For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.' Then these righteous ones will reply, 'Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? And the King will tell them, 'I assure you, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!

To the heart of God, social justice is part of His character and His heartbeat for humanity. Every human being, especially society’s leaders, has a God-given moral duty to protect fellow human beings from social injustices whenever and wherever it is practical to do so (Proverbs 3:27-28). The prophets Amos and Micah spent much of their ministries condemning leaders in Israel for failing to practice social justice. They stressed that there was an integral relationship between true spirituality and social ethics.

For instance, Israel was condemned for committing another kind of “sodomy”; specifically, failing to help the poor and needy. “Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had arrogance, abundant food and careless ease, but she did not help the poor and needy” (Ezekiel 16:44-50).

It is evident that pursuing social justice is one of the highest moral responsibilities of the church and for every single believer. The Rich man and Lazarus is yet another example of the seriousness and devastating consequences of those who forget the poor but had the resources to help them. In Luke 16:19-31 Jesus speaks of an actual event where a rich man who lived in luxury and ignores the needs of a poor beggar who sits outside his gate everyday. Finally they both die with the rich man in hell and Lazarus in paradise...

James 2:14-17
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill," and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has not works, is dead.

Is this not a wake up call to every single person? What do you have that you can give right now? What resources, food, time, finances do you have? Or what serving, acts of kindness, volunteering, or encouraging words can you do today? God keeps records in Heaven and knows all things and all hearts. Nothing given in secret will ever be forgotten. Jesus said it is more blessed to give than to receive.

The prophets' main judgments were leveled against idolatry and social injustice. The living God insists on personal morality and social justice, while idols offer fertility and prosperity without social responsibility.

I just gave away money I don't have, for people I've never met, for a God I love very much – Anonymous

Jesus criticised and disobeyed laws when they got in the way of helping people. Religion and government were intermixed, so Jesus challenged the law of the land. This threat Jesus posed to both religious and political authorities led to his crucifixion.

Jeremiah 22:3
Thus says the Lord: Do justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the resident alien, the fatherless, and the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place.

God isn't a conservative; he's a revolutionary. He not only takes the side of the poor; he puts Himself in their place. In the very alarming parable of the sheep and the goats he speaks of salvation as depending on how we treat the poorest and the most afflicted.

According to Pharisaical opinion Jesus should have come as a lord, a tycoon, a cult leader. Some of his followers today feel as though Jesus should have been, but Jesus came as a poor man. There are all sorts of meaning in that, but at the very least we can say that Jesus takes the issue of poverty personally. A church or a nation that ignores its poor or places stumbling blocks in their way, whose supreme good is money, is very far from the heart of God.

For God so loved the world, that He took a closer look through the eyes of a carpenter’s son so He could associate with the poor. And perhaps it may be true, the poor have come to save us…

18 February 2010

The Power of the Tongue

Do you know what comes out of your mouth when watching the TV?

How about at a crowded sports game thriller, in traffic at rush hour, or even under pressure in the midst of a stressful day at work? If you were to read a book on your every single spoken word in a month, I believe we would all be at the least surprised, or at the most horrified.

Proverbs 18:21
The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit

When I was a child growing up a popular saying was “Sticks and stones may hurt my bones but words can never hurt me…” Now as a young adult with wisdom and personal experience, I believe that this saying is slowly losing its credibility.

The power of the tongue is enormous and can change the course of history. Winston Churchill’s life is proof that one person’s thoughts, words, and actions can do exactly this. Churchill was a multifaceted genius, but his command of the English language was legendary. In particular, his ability to motivate entire nations through the spoken word proved crucial in guiding the Allies to ultimate victory in World War II:

We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender…

Our words can bring life, joy, inspiration and encouragement. On the contrary our words can bring death, misery, coldness, hate and a lifetime of resentment. I’m sure we can all think of one person’s words who spoke to us we will remember for the rest of our life – which brought life or death. Such is the power of the tongue.

What we say has an incredible reflection of what’s in our heart - which encompasses our identity and everything we are and stand for. Some of the wisest people I have met in life and deeply respect, always seem to speak the least. Perhaps a better popular saying is “Sometimes silence is the best answer”…


Matthew 12:36-37
But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the Day of Judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned…

Jesus says what kind of words come from our mouth is a direct indication of what’s in our heart. Everything we do and say matters to a God who created us and loves us without measure. Our influence and impact on others can bring life and death - the greatest of good and evil.

You can never know what a person is like until you know what’s in their heart, and this is best known by what comes out of their mouth. Our human sense of responsibility and guilt, right and wrong, good and evil, righteousness and sin are proof that there will be a future day of judgement where all must give an account in their lifetime (1 Cor 4:4-5, Heb 4:12).

A man is literally what he thinks and says, his character being the complete sum of all his words. Men do not attract what they want, but what they are. A person’s actions, good works and selflessness will never go beyond his character and heart. You will know a tree by its fruit – the results of the seeds that have been planted in each person’s heart.

What we really need is a cure for the human heart which is the centre behind everything we do. God promises us a new heart when we choose Christ as our Lord and Saviour. I will give you a new heart with new and right desires, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony heart of sin and give you a new obedient heart. And I will put my Spirit in you so you will obey my laws and do whatever I command (Ezekiel 36:26).

With a new heart and a new spirit within us, our words will never be the same again.

07 February 2010

God Can Use Anyone

The next time someone says God can’t use someone just remember that:

Noah was a drunk
Abraham was too old
Isaac was a daydreamer
Jacob was a deceiver
Joseph was a slave
Moses had a stuttering problem
Gideon was afraid
Samson was a womaniser
Rahab was a prostitute
David had an affair and was a murderer
Solomon worshipped false idols
Elijah was suicidal
Isaiah preached naked
Jeremiah cried all the time
Jonah ran from God
Naomi was a widow
Job went bankrupt
Thomas was a doubter
Peter denied Christ three times
Martha worried about everything
The Samaritan woman at the well slept with multiple men
The disciples fell asleep while praying
Paul persecuted Christians
Timothy was too young to do anything great

Moses stuttered
David's armour didn't fit
John Mark was rejected by Paul
Timothy had ulcers
Amos' only training was in the school of fig-tree pruning
Jacob was a liar
Solomon was too rich
Peter was afraid of death
Lazarus was dead
John was self-righteous
Paul was a murderer
Jonah ran from God
Miriam was a gossip
Jeremiah was depressed and suicidal
Elijah burned out
Mary may have been lazy
Did I mention that Moses had a short fuse?

I find it amazing how normal, average and even difficult people could be used so powerfully by God in the Bible. Despite our frailties and weaknesses He sees us for our potential and not where we are right now.

He uses every season to prepare us for our greatest moments in life. He doesn't look at financial gain or loss. He's not prejudiced or partial, judgemental, unforgiving, deaf to our cries nor blind to our needs...

On the contrary we all have great strengths, amazing gifts, wonderful skills, unprecedented ideas and half a dozen talents. One of the laws of the universe is that if we are faithful with little more will naturally be given to us. Each of us has been created differently and uniquely to do incredible things to help, build, grow, strengthen and inspire those around us and our communities.

In a Biblical context, God has a habit of using everyday people to achieve great things beyond themselves. At the start of every project He always needs a chosen vessel to work through. Ezekiel said that God was seeking a man to stand in the gap. Do you understand how important you are to the work of God? He will not move without a vessel.

He will not pour out His spirit without a faucet for it to flow through - YOU are that faucet. God needs you and He needs me. Let’s get to work and do what He has called us to do. Lets be faithful with whats in our hands today and trust God to fix the details of our tomorrow. There is no time to lose…

03 February 2010

A Different Perspective

My brother Kevin thinks God lives under his bed.

At least that's what I heard him say one night. He was praying out loud in his dark bedroom, and I stopped outside his closed door to listen. Are you there, "God?" he said. "Where are you? Oh, I see. Under the bed." I giggled softly and tiptoed off to my own room. Kevin's unique perspectives are often a source of amusement. But that night something else lingered long after the humour. I realised for the first time the very different world Kevin lives in.

He was born 30 years ago, mentally disabled as a result of difficulties during labour. Apart from his size (6-foot-2), there are few ways in which he is an adult. He reasons and communicates with the capabilities of a 7-year-old, and he always will. He will probably always believe Santa Claus is the one who fills the space under our tree every Christmas, and that airplanes stay up in the sky because angels carry them.

I remember wondering if Kevin realises he is different. Is he ever dissatisfied with his monotonous life? Up before dawn each day, off to work at a workshop for the disabled, home to walk our cocker spaniel, returning to eat his favorite macaroni-and-cheese for dinner, and later to bed. The only variation in the entire scheme are laundry days, when he hovers excitedly over the washing machine like a mother with her newborn child.

He does not seem dissatisfied. He lopes out to the bus every morning at 7:05, eager for a day of simple work. He wrings his hands excitedly while the water boils on the stove before dinner, and he stays up late twice a week to gather our dirty laundry for his next day's laundry chores.

And Saturdays-oh, the bliss of Saturdays! That's the day my dad takes Kevin to the airport to have a soft drink, watch the planes land, and speculate loudly on the destination of each passenger inside. "That one's goin' to Chi-car-go!" Kevin shouts as he claps his hands. His anticipation is so great he can hardly sleep on Friday nights. I don't think Kevin knows anything exists outside his world of daily rituals and weekend field trips. He doesn't know what it means to be discontent.

His life is simple. He will never know the entanglements of wealth of power, and he does not care what brand of clothing he wears or what kind of food he eats. He recognises no differences in people, treating each person as an equal and a friend. His needs have always been met, and he never worries that one day they may not be. His hands are diligent. Kevin is never so happy as when he is working. When he unloads the dishwasher or vacuums the carpet, his heart is completely in it.

He does not shrink from a job when it is begun, and he does not leave a job until it is finished. But when his tasks are done, Kevin knows how to relax. He is not obsessed with his work or the work of others. His heart is pure. He still believes everyone tells the truth, promises must be kept, and when you are wrong you apologise instead of argue. Free from pride and unconcerned with appearances, Kevin is not afraid to cry when he is hurt, angry or sorry. He is always transparent, always sincere. And he trusts God.

Not confined by intellectual reasoning, when he comes to Christ, he comes as a child. Kevin seems to know God-to really be friends with Him in a way that is difficult for an “educated” person to grasp. God seems like his closest companion.

In my moments of doubt and frustrations with my Christianity, I envy the security Kevin has in his simple faith. It is then that I am most willing to admit that he has some divine knowledge that rises above my mortal questions. It is then I realise that perhaps he is not the one with the handicap – I am. My obligations, my fear, my pride, my circumstances – they all become disabilities when I do not submit them to Christ.

Who knows if Kevin comprehends things I can never learn? After all, he has spent his whole life in that kind of innocence, praying after dark and soaking up the goodness and love of the Lord. And one day, when the mysteries of heaven are opened, and we are all amazed at how close God really is to our hearts, I'll realise that God heard the simple prayers of a boy who believed that God lived under his bed. Kevin won't be surprised at all.

By Kelly Adkins